And the First Bomb of Summer 2013 Goes to… ‘The Great Gatsby’?
Tobey Maguire and Leonardo DiCaprio in 'The Great Gatsby' (Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures)
When Baz Luhrmann announced that he would helm "The Great Gatsby," with Leonardo DiCaprio playing the title character, it was a buckle-your-seat-belt moment in movie history. Could the Australian director of "Moulin Rouge" finally pull off the literary adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic about the American dream, a vision that has eluded so many before him?
Well, after much delay, fanfare, and cross-promotion, it appears that Luhrmann's $104.5 million 3-D adaptation is in serious trouble. Here are the 10 reasons why we think "The Great Gatsby" may be the summer's first great disappointment.
Summer Movie Death Slot: "The Great Gatsby," opens this Friday in the backwash of the Marvel mega-hit "Iron Man 3," which dominated the summer season's opening weekend. The second-weekend spot can be a box office deathtrap for big-budget movies -- think "Speed Racer" and "Battlefield Earth." To quote Forbes.com contributor Scott Mendelson, "If history is any indication, 'The Great Gatsby' will bomb rather hard next weekend."
Pushed Out of Oscar Season: When a studio like Warner Brothers bumps a movie to May from the high profile awards season, it can be a red flag. Last fall, Warner Bros. already had a Best Picture contender in "Argo," and Leo turned out to have a pony in the race with "Django Unchained." Was the literary adaptation not ready for prime Oscar season -- or was it never going to be ready for the big-money nominations? The latter.
Director Baz Luhrmann is Hit or Miss: His last film, "Australia," with Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman in 2009, was endless and unwatchable. His breakout debut, "Strictly Ballroom" (1993), was small-scale and charming. He first teamed with Leo in the swoony "Romeo + Juliet" in 1996. Meanwhile, the movie that "The Great Gatsby" most resembles in scale and mix of period action and contemporary songs, "Moulin Rouge," continues to divide audiences between ardent fans (myself included) and fierce critics.
Leo goes better with Martin Scorsese: Or even Christopher Nolan. Leo and Luhrmann teamed up for "Romeo + Juliet" way back in 1996 when DiCaprio was dewier. Here, Leo seems less mysterious than lovesick, even insubstantial. And what's with his accent? DiCaprio continually drops the "T" in Gatsby's trademark expression, "Old Sport," so it sounds like he's calling Tobey Maguire's Nick Carraway "Old Spore" (defined in biology as an asexual reproductive unit).
Tobey Maguire Lacks Spidey Senses: While Leo and Tobey may be drinking buddies in real life, their scenes together don't reflect that connection. They're acting their way out of separate paper bags. Maguire's greatest role remains the comic-book hero Spider-Man. His dramatic acting bag of tricks seems limited to raised eyebrows, awkward smiles, bemusement, and bruised puppy-dog looks.
Quick: Pass the Ritalin: The Roaring Twenties have never seemed so loud. The party scenes are so hyper, and so much hops in each frame, that it's impossible to focus on what does succeed: the gorgeous costumes and the décor.
3D Fumbles the Intimate Story: Put on those goofy glasses and, instantly, you're distracted by FX -- isn't that green light on a distant dock glorious? It's faraway. It's close up. It's faraway. It's close up. When Gatsby's yellow roadster swerves and speeds toward its final tragic collision, it's cartoony like something out of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" "Gatsby" skips the emotional connection with the mysterious, yet ultimately three-dimensional, Jay Gatsby. When 3-D visuals dwarf 3-D characterization, it's a pointless exercise.